The pros in the JLC Forums post news videos and newspaper reports about decks that have collapsed around the U.S. They swap stories and photos of structural flaws and decay that they find in decks they’ve been asked to inspect. One remodeler—on acceptance of his quote for replacing a patio door—found himself refusing the job unless the homeowner also hired him to repair the existing deck onto which it would open. He was afraid that the deck might collapse, and he’d be held liable.
This wasn’t a scare tactic on the contractor’s part to pressure a customer into giving him more work. According Roy D. Cooke, Sr., a professional home inspector and frequent contributor to the JLC Forums, “Ninety percent of the decks I inspect have some serious defects.” Joe Loferski, a Virginia Tech professor of wood science, who has been researching the causes of deck collapses since 2000, observes, “Every weekend, somewhere in the country, a deck collapses or someone falls through a deck rail.”
“Older decks especially need scrutiny,” says Mike Beaudry, executive vice president of the North American Deck & Railing Association. “Many were built before [current] code requirements were in place. Some may have deck-to-house attachments using only nails. Others have become weakened through the years. The problems will continue to grow as there are more than 40 million decks in the country that are more than 20 years old. By making homeowners and businesses aware of the need to have their decks and porches repaired, we help prevent or reduce needless injuries and deaths. While we do, we can tap into a large market.”
JLC Forums contributor “always-learning,” a New Jersey contractor, says, “Whenever I come across a situation deck built that failed, it's always a reflection of the lack of thought, or even worse—a cost-saving measure. When a do-it-yourselfer, professional remodeler, or a framing contractor on a new development doesn’t care to think about what might happen 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years down the line, it reflects shortsightedness.”